New Degree Programs Combine Nursing with AI and Biomedical Engineering

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By Gisele Galoustian | 6/21/2021

Beginning this fall, Florida Atlantic University ’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the College of Engineering and Computer Science will offer two new combined programs in nursing and artificial intelligence and biomedical engineering.  

This innovative, forward-looking and convergent curriculum design was conceived by Safiya George, Ph.D., dean, Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing; Stella Batalama, Ph.D., dean, College of Engineering and Computer Science; Javad Hashemi, Ph.D., associate dean of research, College of Engineering and Computer Science; Karethy Edwards, Dr.PH, APRN, associate dean of academic programs; and Joy Longo, Ph.D., assistant dean, undergraduate programs, both within the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. The need for such a program was recognized through a number of research collaborations and discussions between the two colleges.

“Nurses spend more time with patients in clinical settings than any other health care provider. They are inherently problem-solvers and provide an invaluable perspective in the engineering industry,” said George. “Our joint programs in nursing and engineering are a ‘dynamic duo’ that will build the foundational skills to better position nursing students to participate as future health care innovators and inventors.”

The combined degree programs will provide FAU bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) graduates with a leading edge in artificial intelligence, which includes algorithms, pattern matching, deep learning and cognitive computing to learn how to understand complex data. Artificial intelligence can be applied to almost every field of health care, including drug development, treatment decisions and patient care. Graduates of this new program will be able utilize knowledge to tackle complex problems that would otherwise be difficult or very time-intensive to address without artificial intelligence. FAU BSN graduates who continue on to the master’s in science (MS) in the biomedical engineering program will use engineering principles to define and solve problems in biology, medicine, health care and other fields.   

“We anticipate that in the future, health care delivery systems and personnel will rely more on automation and artificial intelligence,” said Batalama. “It is likely that there will be a paradigm shift in the nursing field towards a more targeted, technologically advanced and data-oriented health care delivery system. FAU wishes to be at the forefront of developing the necessary workforce for such a future.”

Details of the program were developed by Mary Ann Leavitt, Ph.D., R.N., an assistant professor in the Christine E. Lynne College of Nursing; Mihaela Cardei , Ph.D., associate dean of graduate programs and a professor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science; and Hanqi Zhuang , Ph.D., chair and professor, Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science . Leavitt is board certified in critical care nursing and heart failure nursing. Her current research interests include transitional care interventions for patients with heart failure to decrease hospital readmissions, and the development of skin-based wearable sensors to alert for heart failure decompensation. Cardei and Zhuang have been leading the educational efforts in artificial intelligence and data science in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, which is housing the first master and certificate programs in artificial intelligence in the state of Florida.

For the “B.S. in Nursing to M.S. in Artificial Intelligence Degree Program,” students will complete a BSN degree first and then continue to complete a master’s in science degree in artificial intelligence within the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. For the “B.S. in Nursing to M.S. in Biomedical Engineering Degree Program,” students will complete the BSN degree first and then complete the MS in science in biomedical engineering within the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering. Students will receive their BSN degree from the College of Nursing and their master’s degree from the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Both programs can be completed in approximately five years and provide an attractive way for students to continue their graduate work after completing the undergraduate program. 

Both combined programs require up to 120 credits in the bachelor’s degree and up to 30 credits in the master’s degree. Students in the programs will take pre-requisite courses while pursuing the bachelor’s degree, ensuring a smooth transition into the artificial intelligence and biomedical engineering programs. The combined programs preserve and enhance the quality of both degrees and are open to Freshman Direct Admit students who have a cumulative FAU GPA of 3.25 or higher.

Nursing students can apply to the MS program at the end of their junior year in the nursing program, after completing at least 90 credits. Bachelor’s degree students who take graduate courses in the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science may count up to nine credits of approved graduate coursework toward both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Students must meet the admission criteria for each program to be eligible. They also must complete these pre-requisites for artificial intelligence: methods of calculus; introduction to programming in python; and data structures and algorithm analysis with python, as part of the BSN program. Students must complete these pre-requisites for biomedical engineering: methods of calculus; genetics; introduction to programming in python or introduction to programming in C, also as part of the BSN program.

More information is available at https://nursing.fau.edu/admissions/bachelor-of-science-nursing-program/freshman-direct-admit/bsn-ai.php or https://nursing.fau.edu/admissions/bachelor-of-science-nursing-program/freshman-direct-admit/bsn-bio-eng.php